Toward an understanding of Mustangi Equine Culture

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The horse has been central to existence, culture and spirituality in Mustang, Nepal.  The documentary “Talking to the Air: The Horses of the Last Forbidden Kingdom” tells the story of the ascent of civilization in the high Himalaya and turns a lens on issues of globalization, fragile border politics and the precarious future for the horse in this remarkable region.

The Lo people of Mustang have depended on the horse for their survival and have developed a deep spiritual connection with the equine.  Mustang, the last forbidden Kingdom, is no longer shuttered to foreigners, though it is still geographically remote, majestic and difficult to get to. 

The cornerstone to the film is the three-day Yartung Horse Festival celebrating the end of the monsoon.  The racing events pit the most daring village riders against each other and are a dramatic and compelling visual backdrop to the colorful ceremonies of the windswept, walled medieval town of Lo Manthang.    Daring riders are said to be “talking to the air” as they careen along on their small, strong horses. 

Told by the very people of the region, the film also recounts the story of the CIA’s covert operations with the Tibetan resistance fighters, and features archival footage of the Dalai Lama’s flight on horseback over the Himalaya.  The karmic lives of the Lo people are very much tied into the lives of their horses, and this film explores the ancient practices and belief systems that still very much part of daily lives. 

As a synthesis of visual beauty and academic scope, the film as a chronicle is imperative to the responsible stewardship of our collective historical and cultural memory. 

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